Empowering individuals and communities could be key to addressing the climate crisis, a University of Dundee expert says.
Professor Mel Woods believes that actions on local environmental issues through ‘citizen science’ projects would help to promote social innovation and long-term resilience.
Professor Woods, who was Academic Lead of the award-winning GROW Observatory, will be leading activities at the Resilience Frontiers Lab at COP26, an interactive workshop and panel discussion on citizen science and frontier technologies to support climate action, throughout Friday 5 November.
Invited to host the event by summit organisers, Professor Woods believes that engaging the public in the fight against climate change is crucial.
“We live in a world where data is a key driver of innovation, and with just the phone in our pocket we have the ability to gather valuable information about our immediate environment,” she said.
“We successfully ran the GROW Observatory, which showed how thousands of low-cost sensors can help citizens monitor soil conditions and validate scientific data on the ground, and Making Sense, where communities in urban neighbourhoods gathered data to address their own environmental concerns.
“By democratising that information, we were able to show how data can empower individuals to help them make choices and influence leaders, ultimately making their own community, and therefore the planet, a healthier, more sustainable place to live.
“The world has been slow in reacting to the climate crisis, but highlighting the changes, quite literally, in our own backyards, has the ability to mobilise individuals and make them realise the role they can play in addressing this threat.”
The GROW Observatory and urban-based counterpart, Making Sense, engaged thousands of volunteers across Europe to gather and use data to act on issues from soil and air quality, to noise pollution.
The projects utilised low-cost sensors, with Grow Observatory collecting information about the soil in which they were placed. The data was subsequently relayed via Bluetooth to the participant’s smartphone.
“What we learned from these projects was that collaboration can lead to real-world change through the application of a person’s own data,” added Professor Woods.
“But to make the world more resilient to climate change, we need to anticipate the new opportunities for citizen science, ensuring that the projects we take forward are democratic, inclusive and help to address the challenges that societies face.”
The University is helping the public to develop citizen science projects to address global challenges and create positive change via an online course. ‘Citizen Science Projects: How to Make a Difference’ is open for enrolment until April 2022.